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MLB fans eager for star-driven deals before Wednesday’s trade deadline got their wish Tuesday night.
Some big names finally changed places in a massive three-team blockbuster. As first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Cleveland Indians will send Trevor Bauer to the Cincinnati Reds, who are shipping Yasiel Puig to Cleveland. Top prospect Taylor Trammell will go the San Diego Padres.
As later revealed by MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, Cleveland will also receive Logan Allen and Franmil Reyes from San Diego.
Like with Marcus Stroman going to the New York Mets, another team with a losing record added a frontline starter. Eventually, the actual buyers need to start buying.
While the Mets and Reds have made major waves, contenders have settled for stopgaps in the days leading up to the deadline. Andrew Cashner, Homer Bailey, Jordan Lyles, Jason Vargas, Sergio Romo, Chris Martin, Jake Diekman and Eric Sogard each have the ability to make their new squads a modicum better, but they’re hardly earth-shattering additions.
Chances are no deal will top the Bauer extravaganza in the deadline’s closing hours. It also means the New York Yankees won’t land Bauer and the Tampa Bay Rays won’t snag Reyes, as this article originally prepared to propose.
Plenty of other marquee names who have dominated trade chatter will stay put. A few blockbusters, however, could still go still down before time expires.
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The Mets have surprisingly made the deadline’s biggest addition thus far, but they can still choose to sell some of the top pitchers available.
Few know how general manager Brodie Van Wagenen plans to handle his surplus of starters. Yet after the Stroman stunner, ESPN’s Jeff Passan said the unpredictable organization is still likely to move either Noah Syndergaard or Zack Wheeler.
At this point, it’d make more sense to trade Wheeler before his contract expires and reset for 2020. While the Mets aren’t operating conventionally, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Tuesday morning that they are more likely to move Wheeler than Syndergaard.
Per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, multiple teams have expressed interest in the 29-year-old righty. With an expiring contract, Wheeler is a feasible acquisition for the frugal Tampa Bay Rays or Oakland Athletics, and perhaps Van Wagenen would be willing to trade him to the in-division Atlanta Braves for the right price.
The Houston Astros, however, stand out as the most intriguing fit. Rosenthal said they’re “working hard” to land Wheeler. Two general managers told USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale that they think a deal between the two teams will happen.
Hardly in desperate need of rotation help, Houston’s starting staff boasts baseball’s best strikeout rate and fourth-lowest ERA. Yet an extra impact arm behind aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole could put the AL West leaders over the top.
Despite his mitigated acquisition cost, Wheeler comes with an immense ceiling. Last season, he delivered a 1.74 ERA in nine starts after August 1. Although this season’s 4.71 ERA has served as a disappointing follow-up, he has maintained a strong 3.65 FIP and 137 strikeouts in 124.1 innings.
While adding Syndergaard would make the Astros especially frightening, landing Wheeler is a more probable—and still exciting—outcome.
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The Mets will dictate Wednesday’s action. Coming from someone who dismissed rumors of last winter’s Edwin Diaz blockbuster and scoffed at the thought of them landing Stroman, it’s foolish to ignore even the strangest gossip.
Rumors of the Mets flipping their struggling closer have not dissipated since they attained Stroman. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Boston Red Sox are “most invested” in the Diaz sweepstakes, and Olney added they would likely have to give up one of their top two prospects—Triston Casas or Bobby Dalbec—in a Diaz deal.
Their 2018 World Series opponent is also on the prowl. On Monday, SNY’s Andy Martino said the Los Angeles Dodgers are “still in play” for the 25-year-old righty.
On the surface, trading Diaz while he holds a 5.05 ERA seems ill-advised. Less than a year ago, the Mets gave up two of their top prospects—and absorbed Robinson Cano’s contract—to land Diaz following a career year in which he notched a 1.96 ERA, 124 strikeouts and 57 saves.
Well, it probably is foolish. Unless, of course, they can coerce contenders into a bidding war.
If such a competition for his services occurs, the Dodgers possess the far deeper farm system. Four of their prospects rank higher on MLB.com’s top 100 than the No. 90-rated Casas, Boston’s only inclusion. Although unlikely to move shortstop Gavin Lux or right-handed pitcher Dustin May, the NL West leaders could afford to trade one of their valuable catching prospects in Will Smith or Keibert Ruiz.
While the Red Sox need to fight for a wild-card position, it’d take an all-time collapse for the Dodgers to squander their seventh straight division crown. The bullpen has been a constant problem for L.A., so Diaz makes the perfect short- and long-term solution.
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Despite their unflattering 53-54 record, the Arizona Diamondbacks remain in the heart of a heated NL wild-card race. Because of their plus-61 run differential, FanGraphs gives them a 7.7 percent chance to reach the postseason despite needing to surpass five teams.
Unlike the Mets, general manager Mike Hazen appears to instead be taking a more pragmatic approach. Last week, per The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan, he offered an assessment of their onerous path ahead.
“The belief that a .500 team is going to win the World Series, get through the wild-card format that we have and win the World Series is, I don’t think objectively that’s a position we should be staking ourselves to.”
To that end, per MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, the Diamondbacks are dangling “virtually all of their veteran players” on the trade block. This includes two of the deadline’s premier pitching targets in Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray.
Greinke’s case is particularly fascinating. Although the 35-year-old’s four-seam fastball averages out just below 90 mph, no ace is better suited to immediately help a contender. The cerebral righty continues to excel with diminished stuff, posting a 2.87 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 141 innings.
In the typical summer market driven by rentals and affordable young talent, Greinke will earn $35 million in both 2020 and 2021. Arizona will need to absorb some of his hefty contract or find a contender willing to be a little bit stupid with its money.
The Philadelphia Phillies made good on owner John Middleton’s promise by signing Bryce Harper during an aggressive offseason. The rotation, however, remains a train wreck. This need is especially magnified by Jake Arrieta pitching poorly through an elbow injury and Zach Eflin posting a 12.64 ERA in July. Drew Smyly and Jason Vargas are merely small bandages on a gashing wound.
Philadelphia could likely receive some salary help by sending top prospects to Arizona, or it could relinquish lesser talent in exchange for footing the bill. The money certainly complicates matters, but the Phillies might be desperate enough for a major rotation upgrade.
Greinke is currently scheduled to start Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET. If he toes the rubber, that likely means he’s staying put.
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A Greinke trade may still be a long shot, but Arizona moving Ray seems more feasible.
The Diamondbacks are certainly receiving plenty of interest. USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale linked six playoff contenders to the 27-year-old southpaw, who has issued a 3.91 ERA this season. With Stroman and Bauer no longer in the mix, he might be the most desirable (and attainable) pitching target under contract beyond 2019.
Having already issued 58 walks in 129 innings, he’s far from perfect. However, he has also amassed 173 strikeouts. The Yankees have shown an affinity for strikeout hurlers over the years, and their bullpen could mask his inability to regularly work deep into starts.
Per The Athletic’s Peter Gammons, they may even offer an immediate offensive upgrade in Clint Frazier. The 24-year-old batted .283/.330/.513 in the majors this season, but defensive woes sent him back to Triple-A. Arizona has less competition in its outfield and could let him mature.
While the Diamondbacks remain a fringe contender who could also keep Ray for 2020, they’re in a unique position to sell a solid starter for a strong return.
If they can’t do better than the Blue Jays did for Stroman, they’re better off standing pat. Yet if they can land Frazier or some of the Yankees’ many promising pitching prospects, they should capitalize on a contender that has seen too many crooked run tallies from its starters in recent games.
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Madison Bumgarner is probably staying put. The San Francisco Giants are narrowly above .500 (54-53) and in the playoff hunt. Besides, any prospects they could acquire for a two-month rental may not be worth the image hit of trading a franchise fixture.
But hey, it also looked like Cleveland would keep Bauer as of Tuesday morning.
Just like with Bauer, the rumor mill has slowly begun to reimagine the possibility of San Francisco moving its ace. According to Passan shortly before the three-way blockbuster, Bumgarner “remains available.”
If the Giants are truly still open to shopping the three-time World Series champion, they should find no shortage of suitors. Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown described the Houston Astros as “engaged” with the Giants for the 29-year-old, so perhaps they might make a splash if they can’t maneuver a deal for Wheeler.
How about the team that now needs to beat Puig and Reyes to win the AL Central? The Minnesota Twins have received reasonable returns from their entire rotation, but only Jose Berrios boasts an ERA below 3.70. Per Morosi, they sent scouts to his start back when the Giants still looked like clear sellers.
Minnesota might be getting antsy as Cleveland continues to lessen the gap. Bumgarner could help solidify its first division crown since 2010 while providing a battled-tested hurler to anchor a playoff rotation.
Note: All advanced stats, updated as of Tuesday, are courtesy of FanGraphs.